A measles vaccine, engineered by Nobel Prize-winning virologist John F. Enders, first became licensed in 1963 and was followed by an improved vaccine in 1968. Prior to the vaccine, the United States had nearly 4 million cases of the disease each year. The introduction of the vaccine led to a dramatic decline in measles cases.
To eliminate the disease, the United States focused on securing high vaccination coverage among pre-school and school-aged children. In the 1990s, countries in South and Central America began conducting campaigns, vaccinating all children between 9 months and 15 years to rapidly interrupt the spread of the measles virus. This approach was a significant factor in achieving measles elimination in the Western Hemisphere (2002).
Today, two doses of the vaccine are routinely offered to children in developed nations, as the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends. The Measles & Rubella Initiative is making great strides to bring this opportunity to the rest of the world’s children.
Measles vaccine is available in different combinations- for example measles can be combined with rubella vaccine (MR), or with mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR). Individual governments determine which vaccine to use based on a number of factors including national disease epidemiology and current recommendations for routine immunization. Nearly all Initiative-supported campaigns use a single antigen measles containing vaccine.
The Measles & Rubella Initiative helps procure the measles vaccine from pharmaceutical companies and delivers it to countries organizing measles vaccination campaigns. The vaccine used by the Measles & Rubella Initiative is verified to be safe and effective by the WHO.
The Initiative also works with each country to ensure that a system is in place to maintain the vaccine at the proper temperature until it reaches the children who need it. Each vaccine can be purchased and administered for less than US $1, making it one of the most cost-effective health interventions available.